Up to a week ago this “Lead Green” project seemed like a joke with a bad punch line. The 20 bright individuals from all 4 corners of the world who were eager and enthusiastic to learn about Mother Nature and to make a difference were utterly disappointed. The initial perception was that we learn about sustainability in Mauritius, work with the local NGOs, conduct awareness workshops and return to our home countries with enough knowledge and experience to make a difference. We were promised that we would make an impact but the 20 undergraduates who were waiting, wanting to make an impact were left laughing at a badly told joke.
To convince ourselves that we were making the least bit of difference, we used the word ‘sustainable’ at every floating litter and open fire. We lost every desire to work and shifted our motivation to sun-tanning, partying, and more sun-tanning.
All of a sudden, the faintest hint of work creeps in. “Go to secondary schools and create an awareness campaign on sustainability” they told us in the strongest French-Mauritian accent. A project close to my heart it became, fuelled by my cheesy love for Nature and all things green as I was left in charge of the presentation.
The moon went to sleep and it was campaign day. I stood in front of 50 odd pinafore-clad girls feeling like I swallowed a jar of butterflies. In a house of 18 other interns who seemed like they did not really care nor took this awareness workshop seriously, no one but me knew how important and serious this presentation meant to me. It was a campaign created less than 24 hours ago, I was not at all prepared. What do I say? What if they ask me super-intelligent question and I can’t answer? Whats, hows and ohmygods ran through my mind, until the projector was turned on and all eyes were on me. My mind was blank and I just started talking, and talking, and talking. They laughed at my joke, which was a good sign. They weren’t responsive to my questions, not too good. They look like they are listening to me, thank god.
20 minutes later and it was the last slide, a warm round of applause and I ended my presentation with a great big smile, satisfied that I had just given the best presentation that I have ever given in my life. When it was activity time, the shy, reserved girls before me burst out of their shells and literally started to sing and dance. Their enthusiasm infectious and energy vibrated into our veins. It was the best day I had in Mauritius, knowing that I was able to share my passion and teach the kids about wonderful Mother Nature felt amazing enough, never have it occurred to me that I could actually inspire others to make a difference until 3 days later when Elodie messaged me.
“hi mei! i'm Elodie from the Queen Elizabeth college.Just want to thank you all guys for the great time we had together! we already started taking actions at school level and we're planning a cleaning day on friday during recess! thanks a lot guys. you had a great impact on us!!!”
Who knew a sloppy slide show crafted in mere hours could have had such a great impact. A gush of warmth, fuzziness, rainbows and butterflies of a good kind rushed through me upon opening this sweet, beautiful, simple message. Me? I made an impact? I actually inspired and motivated people to make a difference? I made a difference? This concept was new to my blood, it made me feel like a million rupees. The mere 2 hours we spent with the girls was so inspiring and motivating that it made the prior 30 days of bumming around seemed okay. I inspired people, and they motivated me to do more.
Lead Green finally lived up to its name, although this presentation was merely a side project, it embodies the spirit and essence of our stay. Sometimes the most ambitious of plans is just a dressing while the simpler effort sends the strongest message. All it takes is one little change to make a whole lot of difference. Inspiration and motivation comes side by side, hand in hand. To inspire, you have to be motivated, and when you are motivated, you are inspired. This is what Elodie and friends taught me today, a little reminder to keep motivated to inspire others, to keep my dedication and not to ever lose my drive.